Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Debasing debating

After watching another live "debate" on the increasingly emetic Timesnow, I have concluded that nobody in this country is aware of the art of constructing an argument, despite Amartya Sen's claims to the contrary. Apart from the childish theatrics and the screaming that would do a vegetable seller proud, the arguments that do manage to seep through lack any logical coherence whatsoever. Despite having no pedigree in the debating circuit myself, I am putting this out there for the spokespersons, ministers, motormouth journalists and random socialites who darken my TV screen.

                      The learned monkeys know what to do at 9pm

1) Learn the difference between causation & co-relation: A tough one for sure. Trips up most people but when you are speaking to TV Land, make the effort.This will prevent you looking like an idiot when you attribute electoral victories to Rahul Gandhi's sex appeal.

Causation(def): When first event (cause) directly leads to consequence (effect) and there is no other circumstance affecting this relationship.

Correlation:Two events occurring together with varying levels of dependence to each other.
I have also recently learned that in local parlance, it can be used as a generic word capturing all family members whose relation cannot be translated to the Queen's English.
E.g At a wedding, Person A: Who's that awkward looking fellow by the buffet table?
Person B(after feverishly searching his brain for the right word): Uhhh...he is my co-relation.

This strip may have caused me to the write this

2) Stop using the "So what? You did too" argument: We were taught that "two wrongs don't make a right" in nursery but in a startling failure of our primary education system, our public figures still haven't picked upon it. This is best exemplified by every political debate from economics to the weather, descending into what Modi did in 2002  vs. what Congis did in 1984. (allegedly of course:) with the grating soundtrack of Arnab Goswami but-butting in the middle.  Get over it , both happened, now answer the bloody question you were asked.

3) Ad hominem or "against the person" : Rejecting an argument based on the person delivering it, rather than its merits. Not used as much thankfully since personal mudslinging is still an nascent art form here but in the future , expect to hear a lot of " I find it amusing that my learned friend from the opposition party is supporting the Anti-Tobacco Bill since he smoked a sutta circa 1965. This obviously shows his double standards, this bill is rubbish and I demand his resignation right away!"

4) Last and my favorite, turn the volume down: Endemic in Indian culture, is the 'loudest argument wins' fallacy. This is fine for aforementioned fish markets or raucous board meetings, but on the small screen sounds like the mating call of a especially violent hippopotamus. My suggestion: attaching a mini electrode to all participants so that they are automatically given a few volts of electricity when decibel levels increase above appropriate levels. This may at least impart some Einsteinesque qualities to the participants, barring intelligence.

   Ja..shockingly stupid!

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